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Welcome to Project Washtenaw!

h4. Project Washtenaw is a MIPFS-sponsored grassroots organizing campaign inside the communities of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. *What's it all about?* Any real effort to keep our schools healthy has to begin at the local level. MIPFS is committed to helping parents and citizens get involved in their local schools, understand the financial problems our schools have been facing, and help make the hard choices that arrive every year at budget time. Good schools mean strong communities. Moreover, understanding what is happening in our local schools helps citizens push for constructive change at the state level. *Why Washtenaw?* MIPFS was founded in Washtenaw County, and, well, activism begins at home. But we also hope to use Project Washtenaw as a model for what can be done elsewhere. The communities of the WISD have a strong historical commitment to good schools, but they have been facing the same financial hurdles as schools all over the state. Districts in the WISD run the gamut from urban to rural, large to small, well-off to economically disadvantaged, more or less culturally diverse, factory towns to college towns, and so on. In other words, Washtenaw County is a lot like the state of Michigan. *How can this project help Michigan?* Real change, at either the local or state level, means bringing together diverse communities for the purpose of investing in our schools. In the state legislature, lawmakers from many different parts of the state will have to unite before we can fix what is broken with the state school funding system. In the same way, communities at the local level must come together to start taking back the fate of their schools. Aside from private giving, local citizens have only one option to support the running of their schools: a so-called "enhancement millage" that must be approved by the voters of an ISD, not just a local district. The politicians who wrote these rules said at the time that they hoped this would make it hard for communities to vote to invest in their schools. *But in their efforts to weaken us, we can find our strength.* If good schools are crucial to each community, they are just as important to the prosperity of our region's economy. No city, no school district, is an island: we all depend on each other. Our community cannot prosper if our neighbors are struggling with economic decline. We can take little comfort if our own schools are managing to tread water - we will all share the same fate sooner or later if we do not come together to make change possible. *If Washtenaw County can do it, so can Michigan.* If we are successful at uniting our communities here behind a common program of change, of investing in our schools, we can take that messages to other communities in the state and begin to form alliances. Only by working together can we do right by our schools, our children, and our communities.
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